Althea’s birth (part 1)

“Of course, since she’s pre-term, we’ll take your baby to the NICU for 24 to 48 hours after she’s born,” said the nurse.

“No. You will not,” I said.

“Well, she could have breathing problems, and I’m sure you want the best for your baby,” he continued.

“Yes, I want the best for my baby. She’ll be staying with me or we’ll go to a different hospital,” I said, but did not shout.

“But you see, when babies are born early, there are all sorts of problems that can happen,” he insisted, clearly insulted and flustered.

“That’s fine. If she’s not well, I want you to take her and care for her. If she is well, she’s staying with me. This is not up for discussion.”

“But, we have to monitor her.”

“You’ll monitor her while she’s with me.”

“But she’ll have to be in the NICU.”

“She can go to the NICU if she’s not well, otherwise, she’ll be with me.”

“Your husband can be with her.”

“My husband can’t nurse her. She needs to be with me if she’s fine.”

“I’m going to go talk to someone.”

So began the ridiculous several hour argument with… I lost count… hospital staff members. Hospital protocol. Fine, if she’s got problems. But she might have problems. Fine, take care of her if she has problems. But she’s going to be 4 weeks early, she might need assistance. Fine, give her all the assistance she needs, but only if she needs it. Otherwise, she’s staying with me.

Hours and hours. At least 5 different people, doctors and nurses. I’m pretty sure it was more.

Earlier that morning, at 9:45am on Wednesday April 8 I was waking from a nap. There was a POP feeling in my vagina, a bit of a shock or sting feeling, and some liquid trickling out of me. I thought, how weird! That’s just like it was with Maya (with Maya I had a dream that her feet switched position and POP went the bag o’). I stood up, and, yes, indeed was flooded by warm water. I touched it, smelled it, not stinky like I’m told you’d find with pee. Waddled to the bathroom, leaking all the way, checked the toilet paper, clear. Amniotic fluid for sure. Waddled back to the bedroom. Flooding. Grabbed a pair of sweat pants to be my diaper. Waddled into the hall, told feverish Maya “my water broke.” She said, “what does that mean?” (She knows what it means, but I’m sure she didn’t at that moment.) I said, “Althea’s coming today. She’s coming now.” Maya squealed. We went, me waddling, to Josh’s office. He was clearly on a work call, but I still interrupted. “My water broke.” I waited for this to sink in. He interrupted his work call, explained he had to go, apologized again and again, and hung up.

We had nothing packed. We had no plan. The night before I had decided, finally, to give up with trying to get her to turn and just schedule a c-section. That evening (Tuesday) I actually thought I might be in labor (see comments I’ve made on Facebook and emails). But, having never been in labor before I assumed it was a bad case of intestinal troubles. I was thinking it was labor enough that I timed the experience (about 4 minutes at 10:35 and again at 11:40ish). We called the midwives, called my parents to come for Maya, planned on meeting at Maine Medical Center (best choice for early babies).

All was going well until the idiot nurse decided to try and tell me they were going to take my baby from me for 24-48 hours. What a time for me to have to go into hard ass mode. I do it fine when it’s something I care about, but, it was exhausting. Knowing when to kiss someone’s ass, knowing when to be so firm it’s scary to some people, knowing when to say “I need to talk to your supervisor,” etc. Knowing the staff out there will be talking about the drama, the difficult patient, etc. It’s very, very exhausting. I just wanted to meet my new daughter.

Well? Guess what? In all of those hours, through all of those people, it turns out no one — not ONE person — thought to mention that as soon as I was well enough to move around (wheelchair or whatever) I could go be with her in the NICU. That I’d be able to hold her and nurse her. No one mentioned that. No one thought it important to say that while Josh could be with her every second, I could, too, as soon as I was able.

What the freaking fucking holy hell stupid ass miscommunication. Our room full of people (Josh, Maya, Brenda (midwife), Maureen (midwife), my parents) all heard it the same way I did. Not one of us ever got the sense that they were saying anything but, “The baby will go to the NICU no matter what and you will not see her until she’s out.” It sounded crazy at the time, but the staff were so dreadfully committed to hospital protocol the idea that anything about this was reasonable didn’t seem possible.

Before I went in for the surgery we had it agreed that the NICU nurse who was responsible for deciding how well Althea was after she was born would not *assume* she’d go to the NICU, but instead would evaluate her and consider a lower level of monitoring for this late-pre-term baby. We all knew it was likely she’d find something that would require the NICU stay, but there was something reassuring in knowing that she understood how important it was that she make the decision based on the case, not on protocol. I’m sorry to say the hospital visit was full of frustrations involving miscommunications or staff obsessed with protocol despite our particular circumstances.

The surgery was easy enough. I didn’t puke from the anesthesia which was nice. They also actually showed her to me as soon as she was out which they didn’t for Maya. I was hit with my love for her on that first look. She was covered in blood and goo, and I loved her. Of course, it takes a few days for the love to sink in, but this was a nice surprise.

When Althea was born, at 5lbs 15oz (why does everyone always ask about and report a baby’s weight?), she did have some troubles. Josh was with her for every second of the evaluation and beyond. I don’t remember what the troubles were, but they involved not breathing right and something else. They brought her to me and I held her, though I didn’t try to nurse her (my decision, I wanted her to be tended to).

Josh went with her to the NICU where they attached her to heart, oxygen, and breathing monitors and put her in an isolette (I think that’s what they are called). After they finished with me (placenta out, given to the midwives, though I’m still not sure what of several options I’ll be doing with it), they took me to the room to recover. It’s a bit hazy. But, when they were going to transfer me to the “Mother and Baby” floor, the nurse who was helping me into the wheelchair told me we’d be going to the NICU immediately. Yay!

Flash forward to Friday evening and she was with us in our room at the hospital. Once she was with us, my milk really came in. Her nursing strength quadrupled. She gained back weight she’d lost since birth (even though it’s typical for babies to lose weight in the first few days after they’re born). And, mostly, we started to get to know her. When she was attached to all those tubes and wires, it was hard to bond with her. The nurses often made it awkward to be with her as much as we wanted, too. More on that later, though.

Maya has surprised us with the fascination she clearly feels for her baby sister. Always wants to hold her, admire her, be near her. In fact, as I write this, Althea is sleeping in my lap and Maya’s arm is flung across my thigh acting as a sort of pillow for Althea’s snorting little face. I am so proud of Maya — we’d never been away from each other for so long, she and I. Of course she visited during the days, but nothing is the same as being together at night.

We’ve got pictures of Althea, of course… she’s tiny… she was about 4 weeks early, but now on day 5 of life (that’s how they say it in the hospital), she’s a nursing fiend. She sleeps most of the time, wakes to nurse, and has a few alert and awake sessions each day. She’s also a pooping fiend. Every diaper and then some. Some day I’ll detail the rest of the experience in the hospital, but, for now, I wanted to give friends and family an account of the highlights of her birth. Our whole family is resting comfortably. Happy but still a bit in shock, I think, from what we’ve just been through. This week (with a lot of my parents’ continued help) will be able finding our centers again, getting grounded. All those things we need to do to have a strong foundation. Above all else, though, we are all so grateful that Althea has joined our family. She just squeaked in her sleep her agreement she’s glad she’s here. Eeep!

quit touching my child

Would you get your hands off my child, please? How would you like me to poke you in the belly? Want me to try and tickle you? Maybe I’ll insist you hug me and not take no for an answer? I’m sure we both think not.

Even the most well-intentioned adults around me lately have let me down. Sure, our daughter is off-the-charts-cute. Not just in the parents-always-think-their-kid-is-cute kind of way, she’s simply gorgeous by most objective standards. She’s also very small for her age with a huge head and huge eyes. Just calls out to the mother in most every person (male and female) she meets.

Why is it, though, so few adults on this earth seem to have a clue that children are people?

I heard the beginning of a great This American Life on the subject of “talking to children.” It began with interviews with children about what annoyed them most about adults talking to them. The children were obviously older than Maya (she’s 4 and a half), but they are still putting up with some of the same shit.

Adults seem to flail around wanting to say the right thing, thinking there’s some kind of code language children speak. The adults get goo-goo gah-gah when talking to them. Really sing-songy. Trying to connect, they instead treat the child as some kind of stuffed fluffy toy who might enjoy being bent this way or that.

Maya even has a defensive “cutsie wootsie” mode she goes into where she swings herself all around, hanging on to my legs, looking up in an almost flirting coy sort of way that shocked the hell out of me the first time she did it. I asked her after why she was behaving that way (didn’t say it was wrong, but was surprised) and she told me that when people talk to her in baby talk, she just wants to do that. The goo-goo-gaa-gaa talking tone that grownups often take with her sometimes slips past me until she begins her little “I’m just cute” dance behind my legs.

Some advice to those of you who really, truly would like to communicate with that little person in the shopping cart in front of you at the market? You are looking at a small person. An individual. A human being.

They like smiles, but feel weird if you stare at them too much. Sure, if they’re very small infants (not holding themselves up, yet), they might like a little peek-a-boo. For any child, though, your best bet is to just imagine children are just small adults.

Speak in your regular voice. Bring up something you might bring up to an adult if you were going to be so outgoing and bold as to talk to a stranger at the market. Perhaps you might comment on the pretty flowers nearby, or compliment an article of clothing the person is wearing. Maybe you, too, enjoy sweets, so you could empathize with the experience of enjoying a lollipop (that surely some bank teller thrust into the child’s hand without regard to her parents’ wishes).

Think of how odd you’d feel if someone came up to you and started cooing, “Oh, you are so beeeeeautiful!” Sure, you might feel flattered. If you were available, you might hope to get lucky later that night. But, under most circumstances you might feel pretty freaked out.

Yesterday at Target I decided I needed to help out my little girl. I said, “When someone says something like that (a woman had just said over and over and over, “you are so beautiful! adorable! so cuuuuuuuute!”), they would love to hear you say, ‘thank you.’ What that means is you are telling them you appreciate they are trying to be kind. You don’t have to say anything, but a ‘thank you’ is probably what they are hoping for.”

Maya, like any normal human being, tends to freeze up in shock when these strangers begin gawgling all over here. And, no, she’s not “shy,” she just thinks you’re being really strange and it makes her a little confused and uncomfortable.

And, no, I’m not going to make her give you a hug even if you are a relative. I’m not going to expect her to kiss you or even accept a hug from you. I understand she’s so cute you want to gobble her up, but even her Father and I check in before we slobber all over her (most of the time).

Thankfully, my closest family dwells in the realm of respect. I think they may sometimes wish they could force the issue (LET GRAMPA HOLD YOU we all sometimes want to say). But they see clearly that Maya gives her affection and receives her affection on her terms (she loves being held by Grampa when she’s in the mood). Knowing her body is hers, that she decides who touches it, how, and when, may be one of her greatest (thus far, well-learned) lessons.

We’ll continue giving her tools for responding to adults who mean well but don’t have a clue. We’ll continue not forcing her to interact with strangers, and we’ll continue not expecting her to give hugs or kisses to anyone when she doesn’t want to. Without apology.

Once again, let me encourage you. The next time you are interacting with a child, try to imagine the roles reversed. Whatever you do or say to that child, what if someone did or said that to you? Would you be comfortable? How would you respond?

Because, seriously, the next time someone tries to tickle my child or tries to get her to say something to them (“come on, tell me about your little doggy-woggy-woo”) I might just haul off and slug them. Now that’s not a lesson I want to teach my cute as a button sweet as a plum little angel girl.

Ophelia’s ride

Lately, the evils of four year olds has me losing perspective. I keep telling myself, “they’re four, they’re only four, they’re just four year old little kids!” But, when my sweet daughter Maya tells me a classmate said, “you can’t play with us” within some particularly nasty context (playing doggy, no one would be her owner) I want to rip out the classmate’s hair and throw her into a locked dark closet. Would that be inappropriate?

Life is like ocean waves. My self-awareness and understanding always reaching and finding new sands, new treasures. Always uncovering new old rubble. I’ve come to love The Ride even when storms make it scary. The Ride always rocks and rolls me. I’m always safe.

From this perch, I’ve been revisiting what it was like. What it used to be like. My happy tendency these days is to live in what it’s like now, finding the past an ordinary place with the present full of mystery and joy. Then these little brats came along. These little excluding and nasty and superficial little crap heads.

I’ve started reading Reviving Ophelia.No matter what parents do, Pipher reports in Ophelia, young girls risk losing their authentic selves. It’s only by being “high in acceptance and strong in controls” that we parents have a chance to find our daughters reclaiming themselves in their later teens. Apparently, our daughter is doomed to begin hating herself and hiding herself at around 11 years old, just like every girl I’ve ever known. The parents are not to blame.

Overbearing parents, absent parents, cool parents, geeky parents, they’re all facing the same thing. Girls who used to be outgoing, unabashedly intelligent, confident, and creative turn into little puddles of quietude, bitterness, or fear. Everything the girls are is wrong — their hair, their bodies, their thoughts, their words.

Early on, I was entirely a Good Girl. I didn’t get in trouble, I followed the rules, I did my homework, I was Responsible. Before junior high, I was an artist. I wanted to be an architect, among many other things. Then on career day, an older woman groaned at me when I told her this and said, “Oh, no you don’t, dear! You’d have to major in math and science!” She said this in an honors seventh grade math class. Not only was she not accurate about the “majoring,” but she was talking to someone who (at the time) loved math!

In the seventh grade I decided to become popular. I set about it like I would any homework assignment, I read books, magazines, studied up. I realized I’d have to drop the friends I had, even the ones who were hoping to climb the social ladder with me. It would only be by publicly rejecting them that I’d move into the cool crowd. I did what it took. I began flirting with boys, too, and found them flirting back. My life began revolving almost entirely around how others perceived me and I did, as Pipher reports as so common, lose track of my real self.

In the 9th grade I wrote a play in AP English as a class assignment. I have no idea why I thought it a good idea, but the play ended with me, standing alone in front of the class saying, “I’m lonely.” It was meant to be a Waiting for Godot flavored performance, but I look back now and see that I was speaking the truth.

There are other pivotal moments that shoved me into the typical self-hatred so many of us experienced in the brutal years of junior high and beyond. For a while in my 20s I blamed my parents, of course. But I think Pipher’s on to something in her position that it is our culture, our misogynistic surroundings that damn girls (and boys, I could argue in another essay) to the Hell of self-annihilation. Blaming the culture may sound like a cop-out. But now that I’m living life as a parent of a child, and now that I’m reflecting on my own history from this perspective, I see no other explanation.

Now I’m examining my role as a grown woman, a mother. How can I help Maya survive with her Self intact? Or, help her have a chance of reviving her true self when the storm of adolescence calms?

I’ve already strayed. When Maya went to a summer camp (mornings doing crafts and music) I began to pack little “treats” in her lunch box that felt inconsistent with who we are. I bought the little sugar drinks (claiming to be yoghurt, with Disney characters on the bottles) or pre-sliced cheese. I included bits in her lunch bag I knew “all the other kids” would have. Already I was concerned about her experiencing the ostracizing that comes from having the “wrong” foods in a lunch bag. I was giddy doing this, knowing I was “helping her” be one of the “cool” kids. Oh my god. What was I thinking?

Last week I again packed a lunch for Maya, but this time I was grounded. I was joyful and held true to our family’s priorities. I did pack a little treat, but it was some plastic spider rings we got at the dollar store last year (the lunch was on Halloween) rather than some crap food that would only make her feel tired. The environment for this lunch was also not typical — I knew that in this group “cool” was actually healthy and wholesome and genuine. Authenticity and kindness are the norm and the children are much less likely to say, “eeeew” to Maya’s lunch choices (as they did when I once included a box of carrot juice).

Just as I am revisiting this insane pressure to be what others expect — the same pressure that forced me over the cliff into self-hatred as a young girl despite my loving supportive family — I’m finding my own life to be a comfortable, firm, and perfectly fitting shoe (is there a prettier more accurate metaphor? I’m sure there is…). I am coming into being myself, fully accepting and pleased.

As a mother, I think I’ve caught myself early enough — I’ll do my best to focus on being true to myself, modeling the self-respect I want for Maya. I don’t need to buy the Disney. I will also focus on supporting Maya’s choices, encouraging her to realize that she has choices, that she alone determines her value — no matter what those around her say.

Acceptance is the answer to all my problems today, I’ve read. What I got from the Ophelia book wasn’t despair or hopelessness. I got guidance. The book recalls a study done on strong and successful women like Eleanor Roosevelt. She describes a common theme for all the women was intellectual curiousity about something and a generally lonely adolescence filled with solitude or social rejection. Armed with this information, I feel encouraged. If Maya turns out to be a girl who loves horses, or a girl who loves Broadway musicals, or a girl who loves field hockey, I’ll be overjoyed. Passion for something, no matter how unfamiliar or even distasteful to me, will be her go-home-free card. I also won’t let myself get sucked back into the “if she’s liked, she’ll like herself” trap. As I begin experiencing the pain and joy of watching my daughter work her way through the system, I’ll try to remember to let go. I’ll practice having faith that everything will turn out okay.

Tonight a friend asked Maya who her best friend at school was. Wouldn’t you know her answer was that very same girl who had so wretchedly spurned her before? I can’t say I’m pleased about this since I am still nursing a tidy resentment. However, I am more comfortable remembering that not only is she only four, she’s out there practicing life. She’s learning about who she is just like I am. All I can do is just hang on for the ride.

writing

Anne Lamott really pisses me off. In fact, when I saw her Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year in the parenting section a couple years ago at the Harvard COOP, I actually gave the book the finger. Such was my resentment at some writer journaling in public about motherhood, like I could. Or, like I should.

It must be trite, it must be drivel, it must be painfully common. How presumptuous to think she had something unique and fascinating to say about parenting.

The fact that my resentment blossomed and exploded with physical force (the middle finger jammed up at the softcover book) didn’t elude me. I recognize jealousy. I recognize fear: Afraid. Really, really afraid. Here was this dream and someone else was living it and how could I possibly ever do it if other people already are. I only want the path less traveled on; I won’t be a sheep or a lemming.

So it required great bravery on my part last week to pick up the book, purchase it, and open the cover to read. I finished it in 36 hours which says a lot as a parent of a 4 year old.

That weekend as I read, I began feeling rumblings in my body. Discomfort. A loosening of my glue.

I turned to the wisest person I know. I turned to this four year old who has spent her life facing her fears and asked, “Sweetie? There’s something I really, really want to do but I’m scared to do it. But I want to do it, but I’m scared. What should I do? How can I do this thing? How do you do it when you feel this way?”

Very seriously and with several long long seconds of contemplation, she looked at me with those ocean-deep eyes and gave me the answer. “Mommy, I listen to what my body is telling me. I might need to give myself more time with my Mommy first, but when my body tells me I’m ready, I just do it.”

Later that day, lying on my back finishing up the Lamott book I spilled empathetic laughter every few minutes. With my four year old audience demanding it, I read the funniest portions out loud (meatball-like poops rolling away, slapping an infant for fear it wasn’t just sleep overcoming him but rather a seizure). Most items made Maya giggle, too.

Years ago (1996 to be exact), I began writing a weekly column and posting it online. This was before I knew the term “blogging,” and certainly the activity of blogging hadn’t reached the masses. My self-imposed deadlines kicked my ass, really. I took them so seriously. I remember many a Wednesday evening sweating and twisted at the computer screen researching “What in the hell is going on with the Hutu and the Tutsis?” Or simply commenting on my latest self-revelation that I somehow imagined might interest someone.

For the past year, I’ve known an intense magnetic pull bringing me back to writing personal essays. I left them when I became suddenly embarrassed at how self-obsessed I knew I seemed to some.

I’ve found the courage to begin reading these kinds of things again, Anna Quindlen, Barbara Kingsolver, (and of course that beastly and fabulous Anne Lamott), most recently. In their words I’ve found not only camaraderie but also inspiration. Much of why I drink their words with such abandon are the feelings I get of a Shared Experience. As I approach my own writing, I feel a permission to address the day-to-day.

Each essayist has a unique voice and experience, no matter how common the theme. Knowing I can say “what’s already been said” and have it still be new and unique simply because it comes from me frees me from the sheep and lemmings fear. Any path I choose will be less traveled because the path belongs to me.

I’m falling apart from the inside out. I’m unhinged, unglued, and frighteningly free floating. My writing days return like a herd of buffalo. Knowing I seem just fine, perhaps a little tired, but as if I’m a functioning member of our simple world, well, that’s just craziness at it’s strangest. How these feelings can be mauling my insides while I stroll through the pumpkin field with my darling daughter and my dreamy husband? I know it’s all because the writing is coming.

I know it because my body says I’m ready.

mommy, stay

The last few weeks have been tough for our family. Emotionally exhausting. Maya made it clear it wasn’t okay for me to leave her with a babysitter, or her grandparents, or even her Daddy. I tried working from my home office, but every few minutes she would want to nurse or talk with me. Trying to get work done at a local coffee shop was out, too. When I started toward the door, she would tremble with tears in her eyes and plead, “Mommy, no! Don’t go now!”

Parenting is a series of choices. Josh and I follow our gut. If we discover later the research backs us up, that’s nifty. But, no matter what the experts suggest, we stay true to our instincts.

When Maya told me not to go, I heard choruses of outsiders in my mind telling me, “she’s testing you, trying to manipulate you; you are the adult and mustn’t let her push you around; she needs your consistency (I said I was going, so I should go for her sake),” and on and on.

Those were loud and pushy and misguided outsiders’ voices.

In my gut, in my heart, my soul, my core, I knew that Maya was testing me. She was saying, “I need you to stay. When I need you and I tell you so, will you hear?”

I passed the test.

I bulldozed through the swamp of voices predicting an overindulged and “spoiled” child and landed safely in the nest of comforting my daughter.

The need for Mommy to stay hasn’t wavered over the past several weeks; so, as I mentioned, it’s been an exhausting time for our family. Josh has taken up a great deal of slack in housekeeping (tasks for which he already pulls at least half the weight), has thickened his skin to the “no Daddy!” times, and has reassured me that he agrees our choices are right for our family. Respecting Maya’s needs is how we care for her, even if it means in the short-term all my emotional resources are being spent on her security.

When would it end? I thought many times. Surely, allowing her to nurse whenever she wants to (needs its own essay) and not leaving her with a sitter – not leaving her, period – surely all of this responsiveness would soon increase her sense of security?

Why, then, did it seem that Maya clung even more desperately to me – saying no to a trip to the market with Daddy (always a favorite jaunt for the pair), even at times not wanting Mommy to leave the room?

The responsibility of attending to her needs has been heavy, but small moments convince me the choices we are making are right for us. When she was falling asleep a few nights ago, Maya rested her hand on my cheek and said, “Stay, Mommy.”

“Yes, yes, I will stay,” I whispered, pressing my mouth against her sweet sweaty head.

I wondered if this was just the typical two-year-old stuff or something bigger. Maya answered my questions this weekend.

“Mommy’s not going to die,” she stated with a question’s tone while in her rocking chair.

“What?” I said, not quite sure I heard her, could she have said…?

“You’re not going to die,” she said, staring intensely at me with the widest big eyes a little girl could ever have.

“No! No, hunny, I am not going to die!”

“Daddy’s not going to die,” she said, almost without inflection.

“No! No, he’s not. He won’t.”

Throughout the weekend she continued on this theme, asking if we were going to die. Talking about her animal parents and friends dying, requesting the stories we tell be about parents or friends dying.

These thoughts are too big for a child. She is too tender for such dark fears!

I remembered, then, a conversation we had when she pointed to a picture of my Aunt Mary. I told Maya then that Mary had been my cousin Ali’s mother, but she had died much too young. The conversation was brief, but, as I look back the deep fears she’s had are making more sense.

In addition to talking about my beloved Aunt Mary, my grandmother has been very seriously ill and we have talked to Maya about the possibility of Gramma Jean dying.

The topic is one I assumed a two-year-old would only take in what she could handle. I chose to be blunt about the truth (everyone/everything dies, death is permanent, etc.) because I was sure she simply wouldn’t get in to the heavy stuff.

“Mommy’s not going to die,” she asked as she sat in her car seat waiting to be brought upstairs after a trip to the market.

“Mommy’s not going to die,” she stated firmly as we lay in bed going to sleep last night.

“No, hunny, I promise I will never leave you.” I said. “If I ever leave you it will only be for a short, short time and I will always, always come back home safe. I will not die.”

I justify the lie by adding in my mind, “in the next ten minutes…” knowing it would be cruel to ask this sweet babe to understand that her Mother could and would one day die.

When she begged me not to leave her with a sitter, what if I had discarded her need for me? What if I had decided the other things were more important than her cries for me to stay? Can you imagine how frightened she might have been? Can you imagine trying to get a handle on death all alone as a 28-month-old child?

When we continue caring for Maya in this way – that her cries for us are real needs, not attempts at control or manipulation – Josh and I both know we are doing the right thing for her. What a world around us, though, when the strongest message to the general public is that people like us are being “controlled” by our child! When Maya looks up at me, caressing my cheek and says, with satisfaction just seconds before drifting off to a milky sleep, “You’re not going to go,” I know we are doing what is best for her.

“That’s right, sweet love,” I say to her, long after she breathes the heavy slow rhythm of sleep, “I’m staying. Mommy is staying with you. Daddy is staying with you. We will never leave you.”

And we never will.